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‘Every edition of BBNaija brings a unique blend of drama’

Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu


For the past 70 days, the whole country has been held spellbound by the housemates of the Big Brother Naija Season 5, which officially comes to an end this Sunday. Ahead of the finale which airs on DStv channel 198 and GOtv channel 29 at 7pm, Africa Magic’s Channel Director, Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu spoke with The Guardian on the challenges on hosting this season of the show in the middle of a global pandemic.

This year’s show was a much needed escape for a lot of Nigerians considering the year we’ve all had. Did you expect the amount of engagement and interest that the show generated this year?  
Every edition of BBNaija brings a unique blend of drama, intrigue, fun and excitement and this season was no different. For this edition, we were optimistic and believed that with the quality of the Housemates and the desire to break the negative news cycle, there would definitely be positive reaction to the announcement of the show.

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What further coloured the planning process was the global pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns and restrictions. It is safe to say that with many people in Nigeria and around the continent locked in their homes, television and mobile screens provided escape and coping mechanisms. BBNaija, by default, is already the most talked about entertainment content on the continent; but the engagement generated this season has been phenomenal; from innovative fanbases, to different analyses of the personalities and situations in the house and how they represent happenings outside.  

We see a lot of what happens on the frontend, but rarely get a view into all the work that goes into each edition of the show. On average, how many people were part of the crew of this season of BBNaija? 
As expected, this year’s production had to be put under stricter measures given the global pandemic. Nonetheless, we managed close to 200 crew members, which include the daily production team, the weekly live show team and the artisans who all worked tirelessly and in shifts to bring this season’s theme to life. We also had suppliers who in turn had at least 113 people in their employ rendering services to the production team. There’s the core marketing, PR and sponsorship teams numbering close to 100, who worked from home.

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How would you say the BBNaija show has impacted the Nigerian creative industry? 
The impact has been significant – first off, the Housemates are thrust into a world of creative opportunity, with many starting careers in acting, directing, modeling, show hosting, fashion design, singing and many more areas. They are also able to take on creative entrepreneurial roles by starting careers as influencers and business owners with the knowledge and information gained from the entire experience in the house. On the other hand, every edition of Big Brother is an avenue for Nigerian creatives to excel and showcase their abilities and products to the rest of the country and the continent.

From the DJs who entertain housemates and viewers at the famed Saturday parties, to the stylists whose designs are showcased by the housemates, BBNaija has thrown up a platform for exposure that is impossible to beat; when you add the conversations that these activities and experiences generate on social media, the value is even significantly higher. For example, the styling of the host is a major talking point every week, with his attire inspiring a legion of established and aspiring designers across the continent. This is in addition to the fact that the stylists themselves become icons by virtue of the global exposure garnered on the BBNaija stage. These factors, material, financial and aesthetic, all positively impact the creative industry in so many ways.   

BBNaija is arguably the biggest reality show on the continent; what are the key takeaways in creating a show this impactful? 
Focus! It is extremely important to keep your focus on the goal despite any curveballs that may appear. It is after all often said in production that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong – but the show must always go on. It is also important to surround yourself with the people who are passionate about production and the genre you play in; in the same vein, there must be room for innovative and new voices as they provide a fresh perspective on what you are trying to achieve.

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Another takeaway is that success does not render you immutable – you can and must change when the occasion arises, and your tactics and approach must be adaptable. It is also important to not treat your audience as a singular entity with a siloed experience. The viewing public is diverse, with rapidly changing habits, preferences and means of consumption. It is therefore imperative that a successful show recognizes these facts and seeks to cater to its audiences in the best way possible. Finally, we cannot overemphasize the importance of planning. No project, small or great, can succeed without planning as it helps reduce several risks, effectively manage resources and of course, gives a clear picture of wat success will look like.

What was the biggest challenge in planning and pulling off this season, given the pandemic and its restrictions? 
The obvious one here is ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the production crew and Housemates. It was also important to make the necessary alterations to the show’s processes considering the global crisis, all whilst adhering to the global production standard and ensuring the show didn’t lose its appeal to viewers.

Another obstacle which eventually became an opportunity was the audition process – in the absence of physical gatherings, we had to be innovative with technology. This gave rise to the first ever virtual auditions which recorded well over 30, 000 entries – a record for the show. 

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Should we expect a Season 6 next year? 
What I will say is watch this space. We are constantly seeking ways and opportunities to create and broadcast the best content and tell the most compelling stories for viewers in Nigeria and across Africa.

What new shows should viewers look out for on Africa Magic?
We are set to premiere two new and exciting telenovelas, Enakhe and Riona on Monday the 28th of September from 8pm. Enakhe is a drama series set in modern-day Benin city and features a stellar cast which includes notable names like Alex Usifo, Ivie Okujaye, Lancelot Oduwa Imaseun and Lota Chukwu. Riona on the other hand is an epic story. We know Nigerians love a good epic drama with rich cultural display and we are committed to a future of telling more authentic stories. Riona will take viewers on another adventure of intrigue, power, suspense and power. It also features a strong cast such as Elvina Ibru, Najite Dede, Frank Konwea, Thelma Nwosu and a host of others. We also have a new reality show coming up in November which promises to be exciting, and our viewers and fans of good television should watch out for more exciting announcements further down the road.  

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BBNaijaWangi Mba-Uzoukwu
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